Lee County teachers collaborate in development

The Lee County School District’s new approach to staff development emphasizes collaboration among the district’s teachers.
Gone are high-paid speakers brought in by the district to address all of its teachers simultaneously. Instead, teachers meet once a month with their subject-area and grade-level peers to discuss ways they can improve their classrooms. The new approach began this school year.
“We are trying to go to more principal-led staff development and use in-house experts,” said Debbie Pickens, Lee County secondary curriculum coordinator. “If teachers hear their peers talking about good ways to do things, it works in building a collaborative community.”
During these staff development days, students are dismissed early and teachers use the afternoons working in groups discussing strategies, teaching methods or lesson plans that work well for them.
For instance, last Wednesday, all high school English, math, art and foreign language teachers in the district met at Saltillo High School, while high school teachers from other subject areas met at either Mooreville or Shannon high schools. There were similar meetings for the elementary and middle school teachers.
“We feel like we have some very good teachers here who can facilitate the meetings,” Saltillo High School Prinicipal Tim DeVaughn said. “If a teacher at Shannon or Mooreville has a good lesson plan and it works good for them, our teachers can use it themselves.”
Among the goals was to promote interaction between district teachers at different schools. It also allows principals to determine areas of focus for staff development and allows teachers to work on a project that is specific to their subject area.
During Wednesday’s meetings, the high school English teachers worked together to develop pacing guidelines.
“Our goal is arranging a common assessment throughout the county so all of our kids are held to the same standards,” said Susan Martin, an English II teacher at Saltillo High School.
Meanwhile, art teachers gathered in another room and talked about approaches that were successfully reaching students.
“It seems like every time we get together, we end up sharing things that I know I can take back to my students,” said Monica McFeeters, an art teacher at Mooreville High School.
Pickens said the district will likely continue to also have large-group staff development workshops during the summer.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal